SFC FPA

Southport FC Former Players Association (Port Online)

Player Profile: Thomas Burnett

Secretary of the original Southport (Association) Football Club upon their establishment in 1881, and captain of the side that took to the field against Bootle ‘second’ in the first association game ever played by a Southport club, on 12th November 1881.

Born in Liverpool he was baptised on 25th Dec 1852 in Southport’s Christ Church. 

His father Alexander was a bookkeeper who married Ellen Blundell on 15th Jan 1852.

Alexander died on 10th December 1861 when Thomas was just 9 years old and Ellen remarried on 16th June 1864 to James Turner, in Birkdale.

In 1871 Thomas Blundell Burnett is listed in the census as living with Mother Ellen Turner at 99 Railway Street Southport. He, aged 18, is listed as a Corn Merchant to an apprentice and his mother, a Widower aged only 41 is the Owner of the House.

On 29th June 1875 he is listed as playing for Southport Cricket Club in the ‘opening match of this new old club at their ground in the Scarisbrick-road’. Burnett having been noted as achieving 3 wickets, 4 catches and 10 runs (one of only two to reach double figures with the bat).

By June the following year he had moved to Ruabon, a village near Wrexham in North Wales from where he became captain of the Wynnstay Cricket Club. He became part of their committee, even taking the chair at some meetings. Wynnstay had a large colliery run by the New British Iron Co.

In 1876 he also turned out for Ruabon football club and was appointed captain in both 1876 and 1877. Burnett represented North Wales on a number of occasions and on 5th March 1877 he won his one and only international football cap, playing as goalkeeper for Wales in their first ever home international match, losing 2-0 to Scotland. Birth qualification was not introduced until the 1890s.

Burnett remained in the area until 1880 and played a handful of times for Llangollen Cricket Club also.

Moving back to Southport in 1880, he joined Southport Football Club in time for the 1881/82 rugby season. After only one game of rugby, Burnett takes a team across to Burscough for a game of association football. This trial game was enough to convince Burnett that there was a future for the sport in the town and although briefly returning to rugby, after a couple of heavy defeats he led the switch to the ‘round ball game’ after one final fixture at Bootle where he met Robert Lythgoe, an influential figure in the Bootle club, and an old acquaintance from Ruabon. Burnett became secretary of the new association club, and captain for its first two seasons of existence.

The Southport News lists him working from 179 Lord Street as a Public Accountant & Auditor, House Estate & Insurance Agent, and Coal Merchant. ‘Tradesman’s books made up and balanced’. He resided at 5 Leyland Road.

Returning to the cricket field in 1883, he helped to re-form Southport Cricket Club and his efforts in the same year to establish a series of charitable football fixtures in aid of the Infirmary, directly or indirectly led to the establishment of the Southport Charity Cup in 1884. This was a significant development for football in the town. With the exception of the English and County Cups, these were the only competitive fixtures on offer. He remained secretary of the football club until its amalgamation with the Southport Athletic Society in 1884, after which time he joined the Athletic Society committee, before briefly reprising his role to help the club after falling onto hard times in 1886.

Upon the dissolution of the original club Burnett joined a number of players in the formation of the new Lacrosse club, before once again being tempted back as secretary of the newly combined Southport Wanderers/Southport Football Club in 1887. Burnett finally stepped aside upon the formation of the town’s first professional club Southport Central in 1888.

In 1887 he had married Jemima Lewis and by the time of the 1891 census they had moved to Queens Avenue in Formby. Clearly a man of means he is noted as a retired accountant at just 38!

Around the turn of the century Burnett and his wife moved to the Grange, Gores Lane in Freshfield, Formby where he remained until his death.

He passed away on 22nd October 1918 at the Cottage Hospital in Buxton aged 66.

His wife (Je)’Mima’ Burnett passed away in 1925, aged 78 and they both share the same burial plot in the grounds of St Peter’s Church in Formby.

You can read the full story of the role Burnett played in the formation of Southport Football Club in ‘The Town’s Game: The Origins of Rugby and Association Football in Southport (1872-1889)’

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